October 21, 1955 - September 19, 1997
Musician, Composer and Music Teacher to Navajo children
From Richmond, Indiana
Served in Tse Bonito, New Mexico
"And if I were a painter I do not know what I’d paint: the calling of the ancient stars or assembling of the saints. There’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see, so everywhere I go, I’m looking."
Rich Mullins is best known for his praise choruses "Awesome God" and "Step by Step", which have been embraced as modern classics by many Christians. Some of his albums are also considered among Christian music's best, including Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth (1988), The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume One (1991) and A Liturgy, A Legacy, & A Ragamuffin Band (1993).
He is also warmly remembered for his sincere devotion to the Christian faith, which was often an inspiration to others. He was heavily influenced by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), whose life inspired Mullins to take religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In 1997, he composed a musical called Canticle of the Plains, a retelling of the life of St. Francis set in the Old West.
Rich grew up attending Arba Friends Meeting, a Quaker church in Lynn, Indiana. The Quaker testimonies of peace and social justice later inspired many of his lyrics. In 1975 Mullins attended Cincinnati Bible College. In the 1980s he moved to Nashville, Tennessee to begin his professional recording career.
In 1988 he moved to Wichita, Kansas where, in 1991, he enrolled as a student at Friends University. He graduated with a B.A. in Music Education on May 14, 1995. After graduation, he and Mitch McVicker moved to a reservation in Tse Bonito, New Mexico to teach music to children. They lived in a hogan at the reservation until his death.
He was never aware of how well his records sold, because the profits from his tours and the sale of each album went to his church, which divided it up, paid Mullins a small salary, and gave the rest to charity. Mullins was also a major supporter of Compassion International and Compassion USA.
As a musician, Rich was primarily a pianist, but he showed a prodigious talent for unusual instruments. He was an expert player of the hammered dulcimer, lap dulcimer and the Irish tin whistle. Examples of this can be heard in his songs "Calling Out Your Name," "Creed," "Boy Like Me/Man Like You" and "The Color Green."
Rich was also one of the most gifted composers in contemporary Christian music. He started his career by writing songs for established stars such as Amy Grant, and moved on to record a string of albums that were both musically innovative and spiritually powerful. His compositions were distinctive in two ways: unusual and sometimes striking instrumentation, and highly poetic lyrics that usually employed complex metaphors.
In 1986 Rich Mullins released his eponymous debut album, followed in 1987 by Pictures in the Sky. Neither album sold very well, but the Christian radio hit "Awesome God" on his third album, Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth, brought his music to a wider audience.
In the early 1990s Rich released a pair of albums titled The World As Best As I Remember It, Volume One and Two. These albums featured more of a stripped-back, acoustic feel than his earlier work, with nods to Irish music. "Step By Step", a song written by good friend Beaker and included on both volumes in different versions, became an instant hit on Christian radio, and, like "Awesome God", it became a popular praise chorus.
In 1993 Rich assembled a group of Nashville musicians (including Jimmy Abegg, Beaker, Phil Madeira, Rick Elias, and Aaron Smith) to form A Ragamuffin Band, whose name was inspired by the Christian book The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. The band recorded A Liturgy, a Legacy, & a Ragamuffin Band, which was later named the #3 best Christian Album of All time by CCM Magazine. Liturgy was a concept album that drew its inspiration, in part, from the Roman Catholic liturgy. The Ragamuffins also appeared on his 1995 record Brother's Keeper.
In 1997 Rich teamed up with Beaker and Mitch McVicker to write a musical based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, entitled The Canticle of the Plains. Mullins had great respect for St. Francis, and even formed "The Kid Brothers of St. Frank" in the late 1980s with several friends, each taking religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Mullins was killed in a car accident on September 19, 1997. He and his friend Mitch McVicker were traveling on I-39 north of Bloomington, Illinois to a benefit concert in Wichita, Kansas when his Jeep flipped over. Neither man wore a seat belt. Both were thrown from the vehicle. A passing tractor-trailer swerving to avoid the Jeep killed Mullins. McVicker was badly injured but survived.
His funeral was open to the public and had a massive gathering. He was buried alongside his baby brother who died as an infant and his father in Hollansburg, Ohio.
Shortly before his death, Mullins had been working on his next project, which was to be a concept album based on the life of Jesus Christ and was to be called "Ten Songs About Jesus". On September 10, 1997, nine days before his death, he made a rough micro cassette recording of the album's songs in an abandoned church. This tape was released as disc 1 of The Jesus Record, which featured new recordings of the songs on disc 2 by the Ragamuffin Band, with guest vocalists Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Ashley Cleveland, and Phil Keaggy.
Mullins' family founded The Legacy Of A Kid Brother Of St. Frank to continue his mission to develop programs of art, drama and music camps for Native American youth and provide a traveling music school serving remote areas of the reservations. Today it is administered by Alyssa Loukota and Tammy Pruitt.
This article is not our work. It can be found here.
Here in America (2003)
Songs 2 (1999)
The Jesus Record (1998)
Canticle of the Plains (1997)
Brother's Keeper (1995)
A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band (1993)
The World as Best as I Remember It, Vol. 2 (1992)
The World as Best as I Remember It, Vol. 1 (1991)
Never Picture Perfect (1989)
Winds of Heaven . Stuff of Earth (1988)
Pictures in the Sky (1987)
Rich Mullins (1986)
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